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Wilderness First Responder Training Programs and Requirements

Wilderness first responders help people in remote areas with falls, broken bones, sun poisoning or other medical emergencies. A multi-day training course leads to certification as a wilderness first responder.

Essential Information

Wilderness first responders (WFR) are crucial in an emergency because their medical training is specifically relevant to off-path outdoor situations, such as camping and backpacking. Typically, only high school graduates are eligible to enroll in a wilderness first responder training program, though some programs admit those as young as 16 years old. Wilderness first responders typically complete a specialized training course, then obtain certification. A course may last from 5-10 days and include 52-80 hours of study. Hybrid programs are also available, combining online and in-person training.


Certificate of Completion

Wilderness first responder training programs use role playing and mock rescues to teach students what to do in an emergency and how to assign the appropriate care. Students study common issues such as burns, bites, fractures, dislocations, childbirth, cardiac arrest, hypothermia, poisoning and shock. Instructors also teach students how to stabilize a patient and tend to wounds in preparation for ambulatory care, if available.

Wilderness first responder certification is granted after successful completion of a training course and a written and practical examination. Nationally recognized WFR certification lasts for three years, with refresher courses required for recertification. The required age of a wilderness first responder and total training hours vary by state, so students should contact their local emergency medical services governmental office for specific information. Most training programs also award a child and adult CPR training certificate, which is valid for two years.

Workshops and Seminars

First aid organizations and wilderness training centers offer educational resources for wilderness first responders to learn lessons on splinting, bandaging and administering oxygen. Weekend workshops in such locations as Vermont and Colorado combine adventure and education for outdoors lovers. Regional wilderness conferences, such as the Mid-Atlantic Student Wilderness Medical Conference, educate students on advanced life-saving techniques, new technology and the treatment specific injuries.


Popular Career Options

Those with certifications in wilderness first response may advance to such positions as:

  • Mountain guide
  • Ranger
  • Ski patroller
  • Wilderness first responder instructor

The Wilderness Medical Associates (www.wilmed.com), Center for Wilderness Safety (www.wildsafe.com), and National Outdoor Leadership School (www.nols.edu), all host online blogs with information about the field of professional rescue. Readers can ask questions, learn about real-life scenarios and find out about new first aid courses.

Employment Outlook and Salary

In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that ski patrollers and other recreational service workers earned a median salary of $19,500.

Continuing Education

Many colleges and universities offer wilderness first responder courses and programs. Established professionals in the medical field may enroll to earn continuing education credit in their current position, while students may use this course for college credit to supplement a related major.

Wilderness first responders undergo training in the treatment of emergency medical conditions within natural settings. Students can also attend workshops as well as pursue related coursework in college.

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